Just a few years ago, palm sized radio controlled toys were nothing more than a dream. Today, you can find them at every mall, toy store, and hobby shop. [Alvaro] couldn’t resist the tiny Estes Proto X quadcopter. While he enjoyed flying the Proto X, he found that the tiny controller left quite a bit to be desired. Not a problem for [Alvaro], as he embarked on a project to reverse engineer the little quad.
Inside the quadcopter and its lilliputian radio, [Alvaro] found a STM8 based processor and an Amiccom A7105 2.4G FSK/GFSK Transceiver radio. The A7105 is well documented, with datasheets easily obtained on the internet. The interface between the processor and the radio chip was the perfect place to start a reverse engineering effort.
With the help of his Saleae logic analyzer, [Alvaro] was able to capture SPI data from both the quadcopter and the transmitter as the two negotiated a connection. The resulting hex files weren’t very useful, so [Alvaro] wrote a couple of Python scripts to decode the data. By operating each control during his captures, [Alvaro] was able to reverse engineer the Proto X’s control protocol. He tested this by removing the microcontroller from the remote control unit and wiring the A7105 to a STM32F4 dev board. Connecting the STM32 to his computer via USB, [Alvaro] was able to command the quad to take off. It wasn’t a very graceful flight, but it did prove that his grafted control system worked. With basic controls covered, [Alvaro] knocked up a quick user interface on his computer. He’s now able to fly the quadcopter around using keyboard and mouse. Not only did this prove the control system worked, it also showed how hard it is to fly a real aircraft (even a tiny model) with FPS controls.
The Estes Proto X is actually manufactured by Hubsan, a China based manufacturer best known for the x4 series of mini quadcopters. Since the Proto X and the x4 share the same communication protocol, [Alvaro’s] work can be applied to both. With fully computer controlled quads available for under $30 USD, we’re only a few cameras (and a heck of a lot of coding) away from cooperative drone swarms akin to those found in the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab.
Continue reading “Reverse Engineering the Proto X Quadcopter Radio”
Flying RC aircraft with a first person view is the latest and greatest thing in the hobby. In a fact that I’m sure will be shocking to 90% of people, you don’t need to buy a Phantom quad fly FPV. The guys at Flite Test show how you can build a tiny 5.8GHz FPV transmitter for under $100.
The parts used for this build are pretty much jelly bean parts at this point, but [Peter] at Flite Test is going for extremely lightweight parts for this build. He found an NTSC board camera that only weighs 1g and added a wide-angle lens. The transmitter is a tiny 200mW module that only weighs about 2g.
Why are the Flite Test crew going for small and light FPV setups? They just launched a new line of planes that can be built from a single piece of foam board. If you have a small micro quad, you can easily add FPV to it with this rig.
[peabody124, aka James] has been active in the drone world for several years now, first with OpenPilot, then TauLabs, and now with his own Spark and Sparky2 boards. [James]’ latest creation is a 3D printed quadcopter using both his Sparky2 board and his Sparky2BGC Brushless Gimbal Controller.
[James] had always wanted a quad which would follow him and his friends while they were having fun, sort of like his own flying camera platform. His current setup is finally approaching that goal. [James] designed his new quadcopter to use his Sparky2 flight controller and the KISS 18 amp Electronic Speed Controller (ESC). He also incorporated a brushless gimbal to keep his Mobius action cam pointed at a whatever the drone may be tracking.
To keep the internal layout clean, [James] designed a power distribution board which solders right up to the ESCs. The internal layout is seriously clean, with flat panels which keep the electronics safe during crashes.
The crash protection turned out to come in handy, as [James] managed to hit a couple of drone-eating trees during testing. Thankfully, having a 3D printed quad means spare parts are just a few hours of printing away. Check out the video below for footage of [James]’ test flights, and of the quad tracking his cell phone via an RF link.
Continue reading “3D Printed Drone Follows the Leader”
So now that you’ve built your quadcopter and can fly it without crashing most of the time, what’s next? How about metaphorically hopping into the pilot’s seat with a First Person View setup. Great idea… but the cost of the required gear can be a deal breaker. FPV goggles alone range from the low to high hundreds. [sneaky] was using his laptop screen for his FPV setup and decided to try to make is own FPV goggles.
The display is just a small LCD screen that was purchased off eBay. Craft foam board was cut, bent, glued and duct taped to form a box about the same size as the LCD screen which is also secured to the box with duct tape. [sneaky] then cut the opposite side of the box to fit his face before he lined it with 1/2″ weatherstripping foam. Staring at an LCD screen just inches from your face is sure to cause some discomfort. A Fresnel lens inserted in between the user’s eyes and the LCD reduces eye strain to make long flights tolerable. The whole assembly is then held to your noggin via a recycled ski goggle strap.
In the end, [sneaky] likes his new goggles better than his old laptop screen and sun shade setup. The goggles aren’t too heavy and he can wear them comfortably for a while. We’ve seen a DIY FPV goggle setup in the past that uses individual lenses for each eye rather than one large Fresnel lens.
[grassjelly] has been hard at work building a wearable device that uses gestures to control quadcopter motion. The goal of the project is to design a controller that allows the user to intuitively control the motion of a quadcopter. Based on the demonstration video below, we’d say they hit the nail on the head. The controller runs off an Arduino Pro Mini-5v powered by two small coin cell batteries. It contains an accelerometer and an ultrasonic distance sensor.
The controller allows the quadcopter to mimic the orientation of the user’s hand. The user holds their hand out in front of them, parallel to the floor. When the hand is tilted in any direction, the quadcopter copies the motion and will tilt the same way. The amount of pitch and roll is limited by software, likely preventing the user from over-correcting and crashing the machine. The user can also raise or lower their hand to control the altitude of the copter.
[grassjelly] has made all of the code and schematics available via github.
NYC Maker Faire may be a no fly zone this year, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the Flite Test Crew. We met with Flite Test outside their tent in the R/C and drone area of Maker Faire. [Josh Bixler and Alex Zvada] are two of the hosts of the popular YouTube channel. [Josh] is also well-known for his R/C plane designs, such as the Bloody Wonder and Simple Storch. In addition to hosting, [Alex] is the graphic designer Flite Test. He is also an ace quadcopter pilot, and can be found flying his 250 sized chase quad in many episodes.
Most of Flite Test’s designs utilize Readi-Board, available at Dollar-Tree stores around the USA and Canada. The Flite Test crew is working directly with the manufacturer of this foam to make it, and their designs available all over the world.
The team also takes up incredible challenges such as a flying toaster which actually works, making toast as it files. Their flying cinder block is not to be missed either. Their biggest challenge to date was the Google Project Wing + Amazon Prime Air mashup. The video featured a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a stick of gum. Matryoshka dolls have nothing on these guys!
In a post apocalyptic world ravaged by the effects of a virus, a young man searches for his father. He forms a friendship with a young woman and a delivery drone that seems oddly sentient. Together they have to fight through abandoned buildings, and past gangs of thugs, to find…
That’s the hook for Rotor DR1, a web series currently in production. Rotor DR1 isn’t a big budget movie, but an independent series created by [Chad Kapper]. [Chad] isn’t new to film or drones, his previous project was Flite Test, which has become one of the top YouTube channels for drones and radio controlled aircraft in general. With the recent sale of Flite Test to Lauren International, [Chad] has found himself with the time to move forward on a project he’s been talking about for years.
Click past the break for more information, and to check out the Rotor DR1 trailer.
Continue reading “Rotor DR1 and Collaborative Development”